Opportunities for Further Involvement

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Opportunities to Get Involved and/or Establish a Referral Program

Cancer Legal Resource Center  

The Cancer Legal Resource Center (“CLRC”) is a joint program of the Disability Rights Legal Center and Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.  The CLRC was founded in 1997, to help people with cancer resolve legal issues that arise as a result of a cancer diagnosis.  The CLRC provides free services to callers from all 50 states with cancer-related issues, such as health insurance, navigating managed care, employment, government benefits, estate planning, advance health care directives, and consumer assistance.  These legal issues can cause people unnecessary worry, confusion, and stress, and can be overwhelming.  When these legal issues are not addressed, people may find themselves surviving the disease, only to find that they have lost their homes, jobs, insurance, or families.  The CLRC provides free and confidential information and resources on cancer-related legal issues to people with cancer, caregivers, healthcare professionals, employers, and others coping with cancer.

Sometimes, CLRC’s callers require legal advice or direct advocacy in order to resolve their concerns. For this reason, the CLRC has assembled a Professional Panel of lawyers who can provide a critical service for people with cancer and who are willing to employ their legal expertise to that end.

The CLRC may refer callers to an attorney on the CLRC’s Professional Panel, who practices in a particular geographic area and who has expertise in the area of their inquiry. The attorney’s commitment is a limited one; after a conflicts check, Professional Panel attorneys agree to consult with a referred caller, in person or on the telephone, and to provide legal advice or limited intervention with no charge.  Any further representation is up to the attorney and referred client.  The CLRC asks attorneys interested in serving on its Professional Panel to provide a completed Professional Panel Application and a copy of the face page of their errors and omissions insurance policy. The ABA cannot refer requests for legal services to specific lawyers.  As a result, the CLRC Professional Panel is one of the best ways for a Workshop-trained attorney to connect with a person coping with breast cancer in need of their services. 

More detailed information on the history of the CLCR and the services it offers can be found at www.disabilityrightslegalcenter.org. The CLRC Professional Panel Application can be found by accessing the Program Materials link on the right navigation bar of this page .

The New Mexico SCALES Project:
An Implementation Example

New Mexico provides a notable example of how a breast cancer advocacy/referral program can be established in your community. The New Mexico program entitled “Survivors of CAncer Legal Advocacy Service” (“SCALES”) was originally put in motion by an attorney serving on the ABA Commission on Women’s breast cancer committee who is herself a breast cancer survivor. The attorney helped develop a relationship between a support group called People Living Through Cancer (“PLTC”) and a State Bar-related organization (New Mexico State Bar’s Legal Services Corporation through its service provider “Lawyers Care”) which could process referrals and assign cases to attorneys.

Lawyers Care developed forms for lawyers to use for patient intake, patient referral and case status reporting. PLTC made the initial referrals to Lawyers Care, which evaluated the case to determine if the patient fit within the Legal Services guidelines for payment of attorneys’ fees or would qualify for payment of partial fees. SCALES is now open to all cancer survivors and is a successful referral program. Legal issues faced by patients referred to SCALES run the gamut of practice areas, including landlord/tenant disputes, employment issues, ERISA issues, foreclosure and other debtor/creditor type issues, discrimination, and harassment.

If you would like further information on how SCALES operates, please feel free to contact the following individuals:

Bernadette Lujan, Executive Director
Patricia Torn, Support Services Director
People Living Through Cancer
3939 San Pedro NE
Albuquerque, NM 87110
505-242-3623
pltc@pltc.org
Chris Joseph, Assistant Director
Public and Legal Services Department
State Bar of New Mexico
5151 Masthead NE, PO Box 92860
Albuquerque, NM 87199-2860
(505) 797-6000
cjoseph@nmbar.org

Follow-up Workshops

With a myriad of topics to be covered, more than one local group has conducted follow-up Workshops that are either a repeat of a successful program or another program covering additional topics. An agenda from a follow up program can be found by accessing the Program Materials link on the right navigation bar of this page.

First Steps for Developing a Referral Program

We hope you will consider implementing a patient advocacy referral program in your area. Here are some steps to guide you:

  1. Identify providers of breast cancer treatment as well as “support services” for survivors. Are there any organizations in your area similar to PLTC?
  2. Identify a Bar-related organization which could process referrals and assign cases to attorneys. There likely are numerous Bar affiliated legal-aid-type organizations where attorneys already volunteer their time. Examples of potential organizations include the legal aid services arm of the state or local Bar, a women’s section, a senior lawyers division, a young lawyers division, health law section or other Bar-related referral programs that breast cancer patients could easily be paired with.
  3. Coordinate discussions among the two entities.
  4. Develop referral procedures. Decide how patients are identified and referred and the guidelines that need to be followed.
  5. Conduct a Breast Cancer Legal Advocacy Workshop in your area to solicit attorney participation for the program and train attorneys on legal issues faced by cancer patients. Putting on the Workshop will be a snap with the help of your Toolkit!! Plan on having annual Workshops to promote the program and train more attorneys.

Conclusion

We hope you find this Toolkit to be a valuable guide in presenting a Breast Cancer Legal Advocacy Workshop. For additional information on any of the materials covered in the Toolkit please email the American Bar Association Section Staff at simeon.carson@americanbar.org.

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